Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Spring Football Updates from ACU and Incarnate Word

Wildcats kick off spring drills under new head coach
ABILENE – For the first time since he was hired as the ACU head football coach last Dec. 23, Ken Collums on Tuesday will finally get to do what he was hired to do and that's actually coach the Wildcats on the field.

Since that day he was named the 19th head coach in ACU history – replacing former head coach Chris Thomsen – Collums has spent his time doing more recruiting and administrative work than coaching.  But that ends Tuesday when he gets his first look at the majority of the players who will take the field for the Wildcats in 2012.

"I'm just excited about getting out on the field and coaching these guys," said Collums, who spent the previous seven seasons as the Wildcats' offensive coordinator.  "To be able to get out on the field will be awesome.

"The No. 1 thing in the spring is to put together a roster of the best guys we can find and then manage them," Collums said.  "The key is putting the right guys in the right spot in practice and then let them work.  I think we've got a lot of that in place right now, but it will all play out over the next 15 practices."

The Wildcats' first practice will be Tuesday at 4 p.m. and will just be helmets and shorts.  The first practice in pads will be Friday.  Practices will continue on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays from Tuesday through April 17.

The Wildcats are coming off an 8-3 season that saw them reach the NCAA Division II playoffs for the sixth straight season.  It was also the final season for Thomsen, who resigned after seven highly successful seasons to move on to become an assistant coach at the NCAA Divisino I level.  Thomsen is now the offensive line coach at Texas Tech.

ACU's biggest loss from the 2012 squad was senior defensive end Aston Whiteside, who finished his career No. 2 on ACU's all-time sacks list and was a four-time all-Lone Star Conference and three-time all-region selection.

"There are no more Aston Whitesides," Collums said.  "But we've got some guys who I feel really good about, and feel good about the contributions they're going to make to our team."

Sophomore Rob Boyd returns and should hold down one defensive end spot in the Wildcats' new 4-3 alignment under new defensive coordinator Darian Dulin.  Brandon Doornak and Ryan Smith also return from last year, and Nick Richardson is moving to defensive end from outside linebacker to give the team another pass rusher.

The defensive tackle spot will be manned by junior college transfers Melvin Shead and Nick Finney and sophomore-to-be George Woods.

At linebacker, Collums likes what he has in Thor Woerner, Cy Wilson, Lynn Grady and Chris Summers, and is anxious to see Jesse Harper, who suffered a season-ending knee injury early in 2011.  Harper – an inside linebacker – won't go through spring drills, but should be ready for summer camp in August.

In the secondary, the Wildcats brought in a couple of transfers and return L.B. Suggs, Angel Lopez and Mike Wallace, among others.

The Wildcats' offensive fortunes – and perhaps those of the entire team – begin and end with Mitchell Gale, who will be a senior in 2012 and is poised to re-write the ACU record book.  Gale is 23-8 in his two-plus seasons as the Wildcats' starter and has already thrown for 9,127 yards and 76 touchdowns in his career.

The last time Wildcat fans saw him, Gale was throwing for 506 yards and four touchdowns on Nov. 19, 2011, in ACU's 52-49 loss to Washburn in the opening round of the NCAA Division II playoffs.

"You know you've got a chance to win when you have a veteran quarterback who's good and who's proven himself," Collums said of Gale.  "He's proven himself over the last three years, and there's no one I'd rather have at quarterback.  He's got a great work ethic and a great passion for the game, and I think he's in for a big year."

At running back, the Wildcats lost Darryl Richardson and Reggie Brown, but Charcandrick West returns as the probable starter with redshirt freshman Travis Tarver waiting to show what he can do.  Collums is excited by his potential, and he also said Darrell Cantu-Harkless will see more time in the backfield in 2012 than he did in 2011.

Along the offensive line, Josh Perez and Blake Spears return as starters, while last year's reserves – Logan Hoppenrath, Colton Carnes and Conner Keaton – each compete for starting spots.  Redshirt freshman Nathan Butler could be first in line to take the place of center Matt Webber, who in 2011 won the Rimington Award as the top center in NCAA Division II football.

At receiver, the Wildcats return all-LSC performer Taylor Gabriel as well as Darian Hogg, Harkless and DeMarcus Thompson.

Tuesday, March 20 – Practice #1 (helmets, shorts), 4 p.m.
Wednesday, March 21 – Practice #2 (helmets, shorts), 4 p.m.
Friday, March 23 – Practice #3 (Full pads), 4 p.m.
Saturday, March 24 – Practice #4 (Full pads)
Tuesday, March 27 – Practice #5 (Full pads), 4 p.m.
Wednesday, March 28 – Practice #6 (Full pads), 4 p.m.
Friday, March 30 – Practice #7 (Full pads), 4 p.m.
Saturday, March 31 – Practice #8 (Full pads)
Tuesday, April 3 – Practice #9 (Full pads), 4 p.m.
Wednesday, April 4 – Practice #10 (Full pads), 4 p.m.
Thursday, April 5 – Practice #11 (Full pads), 4 p.m.
Tuesday, April 10 – Practice #12 (Full pads), 4 p.m.
Wednesday, April 11 – Practice #13 (Full pads), 4 p.m.
Friday, April 13 – Practice #14 (Full pads), 4 p.m.
Tuesday, April 17 – Practice #15 (Full pads), 4 p.m.


New Incarnate Word football Coach Larry Kennan shared a personal moment when his first practice session with his Cardinals ended on Tuesday afternoon at Gayle and Tom Benson Stadium.

“My wife says I live in ‘Larryland’ and that I always see the positives,” the coach said.  “I enjoyed every second out here, it was a blast.  And when the weather broke this morning I knew it was going to be a good day.”

Kennan and his UIW staff put nearly 100 players through their paces in the first of 15 scheduled sessions between now and including April 14 when the Cardinals will play the annual Red-Black Spring Game. 

After Tuesday’s first practice Kennan said “I told the guys they gave an excellent effort.  A lot of it was scrambled but that was from over-enthusiasm.  And that was good because these guys really want to win.”

The Cardinals will take Wednesday to do other things before returning to the turf for consecutive sessions Thursday and Friday at 3 p.m. and on Saturday at 9 a.m.

Area high school coaches will be special guests at each Friday practice this spring and after the session will have the chance to socialize with the UIW staff.

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